Thursday, December 18, 2008

For one thing, it worked

Owen Hatherley of Nastybrutalistandshort on Shirley Porter, Tesco heiress, gerrymanderer, Kissinger manquee, here.

Realising that Labour's base in Westminster's council estates meant that this 'flagship' council had a distinct possibility of 'going socialist', she undertook a systematic policy of emptying estates in marginal council wards of their working class tenants, moving yuppies in to take their place, or simply boarding up and refusing to re-let old properties until said yuppies showed an interest. The homeless were dumped in other boroughs or made to live in uninhabitable buildings. This policy, which she systematically recorded in endless communiques and minutes, was called 'Building Stable Communities'.

Yet it seems that her legacy has been remarkably unchallenged. For one thing, it worked - Westminster has, for years, been as safe as Tory councils get. And more to the point, without ever using her sledgehammer-unsubtle methods, local government has been emptying council estates of their tenants and getting in the young professionals for the last couple of decades.
[Since you ask, I came into Yorckschlößchen to see Mimi, because I have to go to London for a week and she's about to go to Australia, but she isn't here, so Claudius brings me a Jever without being asked, awwww, and here we are, dipping into the WWW and the indispensable OH]

OH goes on, indispensably

Yet the key, and very weird, point is one made early on in the book [Nothing Like a Dame - the Scandals of Shirley Porter, by Andrew Hosken] by one of Hosken's sources: the municipal politics of 1980s as a bizarre and unique time when class war was fought using housing as an instrument, with the GLC and other 'loony left' councils like Liverpool on the one side, and Porter's Westminster on the other. This use of housing as a party political instrument is akin to something BLDGBLOG might write about, the use of space in a strange, non-architectural manner, something only supported by the achingly bland non-architecture that both sides were producing - none of it even remotely as aesthetically interesting as the stylistic and political warfare of 1920s Berlin.

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